Turner, Stewart face runoff; Incumbents Karriem, Gavin breeze past foes

May 8, 2013 10:47:41 AM

Nathan Gregory - [email protected]


It will be two more weeks before residents in Ward 4 will know who will represent them on the Columbus City Council for the next four years. There will be no change in leadership in Wards 5 and 6, as incumbents Kabir Karriem and Bill Gavin handily defeated their opponents. 


Before absentee ballots were counted, Ward 4 candidate Marty Turner had a majority of the vote and appeared to have unseated long-time incumbent Fred Stewart. Turner had 342 of 637 votes before the absentee ballots were tabulated -- good for 53.69 percent of the vote over Stewart's 261-vote count and challenger Maurice Webber's 34 votes. Turner declared himself the winner. Webber shook his hand and congratulated him. Stewart said he enjoyed his 15 years serving Ward 4. Turner's support group celebrated. 


Then, about an hour and a half later, it was revealed that only six votes separated Turner and Stewart after 100 absentee ballots for Stewart were counted and only 25 for Turner. That brought the final tally to 367 votes for Turner, 361 for Stewart and 36 for Webber, who received two absentee votes. Stewart's surge in the absentee votes pushed him to 47.25 percent while dropping Turner's percentage of the vote to 48.04.  


The two will face each other once again in a run-off on May 21.  


Stewart and Turner each had kind things to say about one another and spoke with pride on their campaigns after it appeared Turner had won, but neither had much to say when it was revealed otherwise. 


"I don't have anything to say. We've got to come back," Stewart said. "I'm very happy (to make the runoff). It's a good fight." 


"I have no comment," Turner said upon finding out he would face two more weeks of campaigning. "God is good. I'm looking forward to the run-off and two more weeks of campaigning. That's OK." 


Upon finding out he was out of the running, Webber said he took pride in his campaign strategy, which he said was more focused on meeting personally with constituents as opposed to heavy advertising, but said he should have thrown his hat in the ring earlier than he did. 


"I guess with campaigns and politics, you get what you put in," Webber said. "I didn't put a lot into it and I started late, and I guess that's the way it goes. I'm very satisfied." 


Earlier that evening as Stewart was waiting for results, he also voiced satisfaction in his efforts and the professionalism he and his opponents showed during their campaigns. 


"I don't think (any candidates have) been real negative about anything, just straight forward, to the point, and (gave) the reason they're running. You can't ask for anything else," Stewart said. "Good attitude and everything. We didn't sling any mud at each other. I'm happy with it." 


Upon arriving at the municipal complex shortly after the polls closed at 7 p.m., Turner said he was happy with the voter turnout and the effort he put in his campaign. 


"You work hard and hard work pays out," Turner said. "They had a good turnout. I feel good about it. This is a primary and over 500 people voted at the Hunt (School). It's still low because of how many voters we have in Columbus but it's good because in the general election in (20)09, only I think 429 showed up (there)." 




Four more years for Karriem 


Karriem's 482 votes -- 64.27 percent overall -- bested opponent Kenneth McFarland's 268 and one write-in, making him the first Ward 5 councilman in 22 years to win re-election. Karriem said he was confident his constituents would choose him to lead them again and was thankful for the opportunity. 


"I owe it all to the voters. I'll never forget the people who sent me back to City Hall," Karriem said. "It's a historical night for the people of Ward 5 because for the last 22 years, we have had back-and-forth representation as far as not having consecutive leadership in Ward 5. It has always been someone serves four years and that person loses and the next person serves four years. I'm just proud that the voters entrusted with me for four more years to serve them." 


Karriem was not entirely gracious in victory, however, giving his opponent a bit of a parting shot. 


He said he wished McFarland "would move back to where he comes from because he only moves in the community to run against us. 


"I think he's a tool. I think he always was being used. He ran against me four years ago and then he turned around and ran against Supervisor (Leroy) Brooks," Karriem said. "He's a very divisive figure in the community and he causes disruption." 


McFarland answered an initial call requesting comment but said he had difficulty hearing questions before the call ended. Subsequent calls to him were not answered. 




Gavin wins  


in a landslide 


Bill Gavin easily won a second term, getting 78.6 percent, or 529 votes, of the 673 that were cast in Ward 6. Challenger Whirllie Byrd picked up 143 votes and there was one write-in.  


Both candidates said they were pleased with their efforts and complimentary of each others. 


"It's a big victory but I can assure you it was the citizens of Ward 6 that did it. It wasn't me. I thank them for their effort. We had a large turnout today, which was highly unusual for that ward for a Republican primary," Gavin said. "The people, I just can't thank them enough for turning out and voting. Voter apathy is pretty bad in our state and in our country, but today we didn't have that apathy. It was a great turnout and I'm excited to be back at City Hall for four more years and pledge my service to help the citizens of Ward 6." 


Byrd said she was thankful for the opportunity to run. 


"I've been referred to as a trailblazer and an inspiration to women of different ethnic groups," she said. "My campaign was conducted with dignity and grace, and for that I congratulate my friend Bill Gavin for a race well run and I wish him the very best of luck. Councilman Gavin has my full support as he moves the city forward. 


"I did the very best that I could do. I tried to do voter education. I tried to encourage other young people to get involved in the voter process. I have not one single regret. It's been a great experience and people have been kind. I met people who are really concerned about the growth of our city, so I'm thankful for that.  


"Ward 6 had two great choices, and they chose the one they want to represent them."

Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.